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Photo by EPA-EFE: Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad exchanging greetings with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the end of their joint news conference at Abe’s official residence in Tokyo, on Nov 6, 2018.


The relationship between Malaysia-Japan has portrayed a significant development since the diplomatic friendship was established in 1957, and is now entering a new phase through the Look East Policy (LEP) 2.0, pioneering many opportunities for both countries. LEP 2.0 is expected to continuously improve the collaboration of training and education with more focus on economical aspects in advancing the trade and investment potentials that are also the prime concern for both Malaysia and Japan.

Inspired and launched by YAB Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamed in 1982, LEP is seen to remain relevant and it is now looked at from a wider perspective. LEP 2.0 is not only generating opportunities and expanding investments, but is also a bridge to share and exchange knowledge and skills in order to accelerate Malaysia’s progress in striving in this industrial revolution. The three potential industries to be enhanced in LEP 2.0 are the halal, education and tourism industries.

One of the initiatives introduced to drive LEP in the education sector is the establishment of tertiary education institutions incorporating the Japanese-style engineering education in Malaysia. In the year November 2001, a notable consensus is made between YAB Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad and H.E. Koizumi Junichiro in the ASEAN3+ Summit to establish a ‘Japanese-style engineering education’ university in Malaysia.

In December 2005, the Malaysia-Japan University Centre was established in Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) and in April 2010, YAB Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad and H.E. Koizumi Junichiro have agreed to form ‘Malaysia-Japan International Institute of Technology’ (MJIIT) under UTM. Months later, the government of Malaysia was awarded the Yen Loan Project from the Japanese government leading to the establishment of a special consortium, the ‘Japanese University Consortium’ (JUC), comprising of 29 leading Japanese universities to help in structuring the curriculum, research and incorporating critical thinking skills in MJIIT.

MJIIT UTM was launched in September 2011 with the concrete support from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). In July 2013, the first phase of the JICA Technical Cooperation Project was launched. The 5 years of this first phase has recorded the formation of 18 iKohza (research centres), 70 research laboratories (including service laboratories), the development of a comprehensive Japanese engineering curriculum, including mechanical programmes, electrical, green and environmental engineering technology as well as technology management, joint-supervision program with professors in Japan, double degrees with various Japanese universities, practical training and exchange of students and academics to Japan, as well as various Japanese industry initiatives in Malaysia.

Photo by UTM: Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad during the MJIIT Premier Lecture Series 2018 in UTM Kuala Lumpur.


This phase has also looked at the employability of MJIIT graduates among the leading Japanese companies and has attracted the Japanese to further their studies in MJIIT. MJIIT’s efforts to provide Japanese language exposure at various levels as well as the exposure to the Japanese work culture has provided a great opportunity for MJIIT graduates to serve in Japan. These graduates will return with valuable experience to be shared and learned by the local industries. A total of 30 selected Japanese professors from JUC have contributed to the development of MJIIT throughout this first phase.

Following MJIIT’s achievements, the second phase of JICA Technical Cooperation Project was launched in July 2018 with the purpose of reinforcing and restrategising on the Japanese-style oriented education and research in MJIIT, along the collaboration with other universities and Japanese industrial partners. Some of the missions in this phase are the establishment of special research funds, reinforcing the i-Kohza system (a research centre that is based on the “senpai-kohai” concept), the launch of the “Sangaku-Renkei” centre, which will drive the relationship between Japan-Malaysia academics and industries, strengthening all academic programmes and developing new ones which will contribute to the Industrial Revolution 4.0, as well as strengthening laboratory services and research collaborations with the industries.

Aligned with the launch of the second phase of the JICA Technical Cooperation Project, MJIIT is now steering towards a more contributive role to the LEP 2.0, where transparency and values are the prime policies to achieve sustainable development, efficiency, and visibility as an upgraded version of MJIIT that is relevant to today’s international dynamics. MJIIT operations is seeing continuous improvements, in line with its ‘kaizen’ concept and openness, while also promoting a holistic and persistent work culture through existing talents in UTM and its Japanese counterparts to meet the global needs.